Skip to comments.The Forgotten Cherokees: United Keetoowah Band
Posted on 08/10/2008 12:34:03 PM PDT by DBCJR
The Keetoowahs are the traditonal people, the keepers of the language and heritage. They came west 20 years before the Trail of Tears, trading their land in North Carolina for new land the US gave them. Later the "civilized" tribes came and "white-manned" the Keetoowahs out of their land and other Federal entitlements. Learn more about the Keetoowahs at
(Excerpt) Read more at video.google.com ...
Thank you for posting the video DBCJR. Coincidentally the other day I was researching the Trail of Tears and found information giving a little background about the Cherokee in Red Clay, Tennessee prior to their removal.
The Cherokee Nation was just one tribe of many who were removed from their lands and moved West.
In the third section below, I copied and pasted information which included much tourist information and some American History material for schoolwork. I tried to remove most of the tourist info and some of the information directed to schools, teachers and students.
There were five Native American tribes which were distinguished as "the five civilized tribes" because of their adapting to "the white man's way of living."
Muscogee (Creek) Nation
Holmes Colbert, A Chickasaw Native American, helped write the Chickasaw constitution
(Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Benjamin Nance, photographer)
The caravan was ready to move out. The wagons were lined up. The mood was somber. One who was there reported that "there was a silence and stillness of the voice that betrayed the sadness of the heart." Behind them the makeshift camp where some had spent three months of a Tennessee summer was already ablaze. There was no going back.
A white-haired old man, Chief Going Snake, led the way on his pony, followed by a group of young men on horseback. Just as the wagons moved off along the narrow roadway, they heard a sound. Although the day was bright, there was a black thundercloud in the west. The thunder died away and the wagons continued their long journey westward toward the setting sun. Many who heard the thunder thought it was an omen of more trouble to come.¹
This is the story of the removal of the Cherokee Nation from its ancestral homeland in parts of North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama to land set aside for American Indians in what is now the state of Oklahoma.
Some 100,000 American Indians forcibly removed from what is now the eastern United States to what was called Indian Territory included members of the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole tribes.
The Cherokee's journey by water and land was over a thousand miles long, during which many Cherokees were to die. Tragically, the story in this lesson is also one of conflict within the Cherokee Nation as it struggled to hold on to its land and its culture in the face of overwhelming force.
The Trail of Tears National Historic Trail commemorates the removal of the Cherokee and the paths that 17 Cherokee detachments followed westward. It also promotes a greater awareness of the Trail's legacy and the effects of the United States' policy of American Indian removal not only on the Cherokee, but also on other tribes, primarily the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole.
¹ W. Shorey Coodey to John Howard Payne, n.d.; cited in John Ehle, Trail of Tears: The Rise and Fall of the Cherokee Nation (New York: Doubleday, 1988), 351.
Trail of Tears
Red Clay Tennessee
This eternal flame burns at Red Clay State Historic Park as a symbol of the Cherokee culture
In 1832 things were looking grim for the Cherokee nation. Stripped of their rights in the state of Georgia, members of the tribe moved their seat of government from New Echota in northwest Georgia to Red Clay, just across the Tennessee state line.
But Red Clay would not be the Cherokee capital for long. Only six years later the tribe would be sent west on a journey we now know as the Trail of Tears.
< Snip >
In spite of the loss of so much of their land, most Cherokees assumed they would be allowed to stay in this section of the country forever. After all, they had co-existed peacefully with the American government ever since the brutal Nickajack Expedition of 1794. Many Cherokees had fought for the American government, such as at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend against the Creeks.
More importantly, the Cherokee nation had largely adopted white ways: becoming farmers, taking on a democratic form of government under a constitution, adopting Christianity, and even creating a written language.
By the 1820s Cherokees were more likely to be literate in the Cherokee than white settlers in this part of the country were to be literate in the English language. Cherokees frequently went to church. They even had a written newspaper, The Phoenix.
In 1828, however, two things occurred that sealed the fate of the Cherokee nation east of the Mississippi River. First, gold was discovered on Cherokee land in Georgia, resulting in a massive encroachment by white settlers onto Cherokee property.
Then, Andrew Jackson was elected president. Though he could be kind to individual Native Americans, Jackson did not believe Native American culture could coexist with the United States. He immediately pursued a policy of removal -- of forcing the Cherokees off their land and relocating them to points west of the Mississippi River.
The Blue Hole Spring
Here's where Red Clay comes into the picture: by 1832 the Georgia legislature had taken away all Cherokee legal rights, stolen the Cherokees land and made it illegal for Cherokees to hold political meetings.
At that point the tribe moved its capital to a site just north of the Tennessee/Georgia state line (during this era, individual states had far more power than they do today). There was a spring on the site called Blue Hole Spring that is still there today. There were no structures there, so a council house and a few cabins were hastily built.
A council was a time when the Cherokee people came together to meet and for their leaders to discuss things important to the tribe. Councils generally lasted between two weeks and a month. The Cherokee had 11 separate councils here between 1832 and 1838.
Although young children might had fun at these councils, these were desperate times for the Cherokee people. In spite of President Jackson's insistence that they would have to leave, the Cherokee people still held out hope that John Ross would be able to work out a deal under which they could stay.
The Cherokee people had a good legal case, since the U.S. Supreme Court under John Marshall had ruled that the 1830 Indian Removal Act was unconstitutional.
However, it was here that the Cherokees realized that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling would not help them. Here they also learned that a small group of Cherokee leaders (led by Major Ridge) signed the so-called Treaty of New Echota, which purportedly sold all the Cherokee land east of the Mississippi to the American government.
After John Ross learned about this treaty, he tried hard to get the U.S. Senate to reject it (an effort that failed by one vote). After that effort failed, more than 15,000 Cherokees (practically the entire tribe) signed a petition protesting the treaty and disavowing those who had signed it. But the American government used this treaty as final justification to force the Indians off their land.
The stages of Cherokee removal are depicted in this series of stained glass windows at the Red Clay visitor's center. In the fall of 1838 the U.S. Army began forcing Indians into staging camps near the Tennessee River. From there some went downriver on boats, while others marched northwest.
Today we estimate that 4,000 of the 15,000 Cherokees died either along the way or in the holding camps, which is why we refer to it as the Trail of Tears. The trip was especially hard on the elderly and young children. Those who died were usually buried in unmarked graves which are now all over Tennessee and Arkansas.
The Red Clay grounds
After they left, all the structures that had been built at Red Clay were torn down, and the land became part of a privately owned farm. They remained so until 1979, when its owner sold it to the state of Tennessee to be used as a historic park.
Among the structures you will find there today are a visitor's center, a replica of the council house, a replica of a small Cherokee farm, and a replica of some of the small cabins that were built there during Red Clay's short stint as Cherokee capital.
The replica of the Cherokee farm
The small farm replica is meant as a reminder of what life was for many Cherokee by the 1820s -- a generation after the tribe adopted so many aspects of white culture. However, there wasn't actually a farm here when Red Clay was the Cherokee capital.
As we said before, the Cherokee tribe had a culture completely different from the one settlers brought from Europe. But around 1800 members of the tribe began to assimilate their culture into white culture; to do away with the old ways and become farmers and tradesmen. No one personified this better than Sequoyah and the language he wrote.
Sequoyah was born in 1776 in the Cherokee town of Tuskegee, in present day Monroe County. His English name was George Gist; his Cherokee name Sequoyah. His father was a white fur trader and his mother a member of a prominent Cherokee family.
Sequoyah was raised in a manner typical of Cherokee children of that era, but he spent much of his youth exposed to white culture. For instance, he was trained as a blacksmith certainly something that wasnt a part of Cherokee culture. During the War of 1812 and the Creek War of 1813-14 he fought on the side of the Americans. Legend has it that he first got the idea to create an alphabet for the Cherokee people when he saw soldiers writing letters home during that war.
Convinced his people needed a language, Sequoyah spent several years creating one, coming up with new symbols for every sound in the Cherokee language. Legend has it that he first demonstrated his new written language to other Cherokees at a tribal meeting, with his daughter reading something that he had written.
Sequoyahs new "talking leaves," as they were sometimes known, caught on so fast within the Cherokee nation that by the late 1820s it is believed that the literacy rate among Cherokees was higher than it was for whites who lived near them. Starting in 1828, the Cherokees even had their own newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix, all written in the new language. However, Sequoyahs language came too late to make any real impact on the sad fate that awaited the Cherokee nation.
Cherokee Newspaper "Phoenix" 1829
Some parts our history are painful to recount. The Trail of Tears is one of those parts.
When Tennessee first became a state, it consisted of about one-eighth of the land that it does today. Most of the rest of the land still belonged to the Native American tribes.
However, as the years passed, the American government purchased those lands from the Native Americans.
The biggest single purchase came in 1818, when Tennessee acquired its western third via the Chickasaw Purchase.
After that, the only part of Tennessee still left to Native Americans was the southeast part that was owned by the Cherokees. Meanwhile the Cherokees also still inhabited large parts of western North Carolina and northwest Georgia.
By this time many Cherokees had adapted white culture. The Cherokees were no longer on the warpath. Many Cherokees had large farms and sold their goods at market just like other farmers; while there were Cherokees working as blacksmiths, tailors, and other things. The Cherokees had largely adopted the Christian religion, and some of them had even fought on the American side in the war of 1812 and the Creek War of 1813-14. And, thanks to Sequoyah, the Cherokees now had a written language and their own newspaper.
This Tennessee map from 1821 shows land the Cherokees still possessed at that time.
Nevertheless, Americans still wanted all of the Cherokees land call it greed if you must. Many leaders in and around Tennessee felt this way. One of them, Andrew Jackson, was elected president in 1828.
Jackson generally hated Native Americans, describing them as "immoral" and "wandering savages" although he could be kind to them on an individual basis. He had fought against them many times most notably at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in present-day Alabama, when he led an army that defeated the Creeks.
The same year Jackson was elected, a Cherokee boy discovered gold in northwest Georgia right in the middle of the Cherokee land. As soon as this happened, white prospectors (people looking to find gold) poured into the area. Some whites, hoping to run the Cherokees off of their land, began sneaking onto Cherokee country and plundering and burning homes in an attempt to run them off.
The Cherokee lost the legal battle that followed. Banned by the Georgia government from taking part in political activity, they moved their capital just across the Georgia/Tennessee line to Red Clay.
On May 28, 1830, President Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, requiring all Native Americans to leave their homes and move west of the Mississippi River. Many Cherokees refused to go and filed a lawsuit against the government to stop this from taking place. That lawsuit went all the way to the U. S. Supreme Court, which ruled that the Cherokees had every right to remain on their land. But Jackson refused to do what the Supreme Court told him to. "[Chief Justice] John Marshall has rendered his decision," Jackson said. "Let him enforce it."
Some people today believe Jackson probably should have been removed from office for doing this, because the president is supposed to respect and obey the rulings of the Supreme Court. But no one in Congress had the courage to start such a movement.
By 1838 many Native Americans of various tribes had given up and moved west, while others still refused. But in May of that year the federal government began rounding them up and forcing them to go west, in an event that we now call the Trail of Tears.
Here is how one book describes what happened when American troops showed up to remove the Cherokees:
"Without warning, the troops burst into Cherokee homes, dragged the people outside, and drove them toward staging camps. Anyone moving too slowly was prodded by a soldiers bayonet.
Following almost on the heels of the soldiers came neighboring whites who swept up the Cherokees personal possessions just as soon as the soldiers had forced the Indians from their homes. Like pirates, the whites stuffed sacks with pots, pans, silverware, and musical instruments, all looted from Cherokee houses and cabins."
-- from the book The Trail of Tears by R. Conrad Stein
After being packed into staging areas generally nothing more than fenced-in areas guarded by soldiers around 16,000 Cherokees were marched northwest from present-day Chattanooga up through Murfreesboro, Nashville, and Clarksville and into Kentucky, enroute to present-day Oklahoma.
The journey took over a year and a half, and it is estimated that one in four of the people who traveled this route died along the way.
Many years later, an old soldier had this to say about what he saw during the removal of the Native Americans.
"I fought through the Civil War and I have seen men shot to pieces and slaughtered by thousands, but the Cherokee removal was the cruelest work I ever knew."
By the way, about a thousand Cherokees who were known as the Oconaluftee Citizen Indians refused to leave and hid in deep ravines, caves and cliffs of the Great Smoky Mountains , where it would be almost impossible to round them up.
One of them was named Tsali, and he had killed a white soldier for jabbing a bayonet at his wife. Cherokee legend claims that Tsali gave himself up in exchange for an agreement allowing other members of his tribe to stay in the mountains. The people who live at the Cherokee Indian Reservation believe that they are there today because of Tsali.
Trail of Tears
I live in Oklahoma, in the 14 county district of the Cherokees. I am very impressed with the fortitude it took for the civilized tribes to survive the Trail of Tears, but even more impressed with those bands who refused to adapt to the white man’s ways, sort of the Libertarians of their day.
Thank you for introducing me to the Oconaluftee Citizen Indians and Tsali.
She is a hottie-hot-hottie.
Her name is spelled "Reille, with an "e" at the end.
East Tennessee Bump....
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